Is Scotland about to scrap council tax?

The Greens and the SNP are looking at replacing the tax with a more progressive alternative and will vote on it tomorrow.

Green Members of the Scottish Parliament (MSPs) will bring a vote in the Scottish Parliament tomorrow trying to force the Scottish Government to scrap council tax and replace it with a progressive alternative.

The Greens say they will try to force the minority SNP government to ‘scrap the unfair, outdated Council Tax’ and to ‘convene a cross-party group before the Summer to begin the work to establish a fairer replacement.’

And the SNP have signalled that they may be prepared to go along with it.

Responding to the Greens’ call for reform, Derek Mackay, the Scottish finance minister, said the SNP were ‘open to council tax reform’, adding:

“This government remains committed to making local taxation more progressive and we have made clear that we are open to further dialogue on options for local tax reform.”

When first elected into power in 2007, the SNP had promised to abolish council tax, but abandoned the plan two years later. Might the Greens push them back in this direction?

As we reported last week, council tax is in many parts of the UK so regressive and unfair that a leading think tank branded it ‘the new poll tax’.

Because council tax hasn’t been updated since the early 1990s, a situation has arisen where households benefiting from booming prices haven’t been paying more in property levies, the Resolution Foundation showed.

Since 1970 property wealth has risen by 300% while annual property taxes (most of this council tax) fell by 0.3%.

This has led to a situation where, for example, typical council tax in the North East of England is over 3 times higher relative to property values than it is in London.

Andy Wightman MSP, Local Government spokesperson for the Scottish Greens, said:

“The public are being penalised with an outdated, unfair system under which most households are paying the wrong amount.

Successive Scottish Governments have ducked this issue but with a parliament of minorities, we have a chance to build on the agreement struck during the 2015 cross-party Commission on Local Tax Reform that the present Council Tax system must end.

“In the same way that Green pressure has resulted in a shift toward a fairer system of income tax, with lower earners paying less and higher earners paying more, we must see a shift in local tax so we have a fairer system that gives local authorities flexibility to raise the funds they need for local services.

“I hope other parties agree that after years of talking, it’s deeds not words that count, and we must see movement on this issue before the Summer.”

And if council tax is scrapped in Scotland and replaced with a progressive property levy, it could set a strong precedent for reform in the rest of the UK. 

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